After conquering developed markets like the U.S. and Europe, the tech world is eager to expand into the developing world in search of new, untapped populations of potential customers. While that all makes perfect sense in theory, in practice it can lead to challenges.
A good case in point is Facebook, which as a “mobile first company” has been looking for some time to capitalize on the rise of smartphones in locations such as India and Africa. The problem? In many emerging markets, users lack the kind of Internet connection needed to use the full version of the social network.
Facebook’s answer? A new, lightweight version of its mobile app–especially designed for areas with poor-quality Internet connections.
According to Facebook, this “Facebook Lite” app allows low-cost Android handsets to quickly load Facebook feeds and photos, even when users are on 2G connections. The app was launched in several countries in both Asia and Africa over the weekend–including Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. Currently it is being tested, but if successful Facebook will no doubt hope it can continue to grow its social network.
It’s worth noting that this is not a new area of interest for Facebook. Not only has the social network already launched its Internet.org project to help bring connectivity to parts of the world that currently have none, but Facebook researchers have also at various times been dispatched to different emerging markets to speak with users and gather unique insights.
If Facebook gets its extra users, and people in remote or underserved areas get better communication and access tools as a result, who loses?